Managing Cultural Change in
Managing Cultural Change in Public Libraries argues that changes to library Strategies
and Systems can lead to transformations in library Structures that can, in turn, shape
and determine Organisational Culture. Drawing on Management theories, as well as the
ideas of Marx and Maslow, the authors present an ambitious Analytical Framework that
can be used to better understand, support and enable cultural change in public libraries.
The volume argues for radical –but sustainable –transformations in public
libraries that require significant changes to Strategies, Structures, Systems and, most
importantly, Organisational Culture. These changes will enable Traditional Libraries
to reach out beyond their current active patrons to engage with new customer groups
and will also enable Traditional Libraries to evolve into Community-Led Libraries,
and Community-Led Libraries to become Needs-Based Libraries. Public libraries
must be meaningful and relevant to the communities they serve. For this to happen,
the authors argue, all sections of the local community must be actively involved in the
planning, design, delivery and evaluation of library services. This book demonstrates
how to make these changes happen, acting as a blueprint and road map for organisational change and putting ideas into action through a series of case studies.
Managing Cultural Change in Public Libraries will be of particular interest to
academics and advanced students engaged in the study of library and information
science. It should also be essential reading for practitioners and policymakers and all
those who believe that communities should be involved and engaged in the planning,
design, delivery and evaluation of library services.
John Pateman has worked in public libraries for 40 years in a number of different
roles, ranging from library assistant to chief librarian. He was chief librarian of
three library systems in the UK: Hackney, a diverse inner London borough; Merton,
a multicultural London suburb; and Lincolnshire, a large rural county. John is currently Chief Librarian and Chief Executive Officer at Thunder Bay Public Library in
Ontario, Canada. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information
Professionals, and he received the National Culture Award from the Cuban government for his work in support of Cuban libraries.
Joe Pateman is a PhD candidate studying politics at the University of Nottingham, UK,
with a specific interest in the disciplines of Marxist political theory and International
Political Economy. Joe has written several essays from the Marxist perspective, on
topics such as globalisation, inequality, poverty, international relations, political
strategy, racism, hegemony and public libraries in the Soviet Union. His interest is in
how libraries can provide democratic public space in an increasingly commercialised
world. He is a member of the editorial board of Information for Social Change.
Routledge Studies in Library and Information Science
Behavior, Technology, and Social Context in the Age of the Internet
Paul T. Jaeger and Gary Burnett
E-Journals Access and Management
The Challenges to Library Learning
Solutions for Libraries
Bruce E. Massis
Perspectives on Information
Magnus Ramage and David Chapman
Traditions of Systems Theory
Major Figures and Contemporary Developments
Libraries, Literatures, and Archives
Marta Mestrovic Deyrup
Managing Cultural Change in Public Libraries
Marx, Maslow and Management
John Pateman and Joe Pateman
Managing Cultural Change in
Marx, Maslow and Management
John Pateman and Joe Pateman
First published 2019
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© 2019 John Pateman and Joe Pateman
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ISBN: 978-1-138-70539-5 (hbk)
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by Out of House Publishing
This book is dedicated to the memory of Karl Marx (1818–1883)
on the bicentennial of his birth. His ideas inspired and motivated
us to write this book.
‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways.
The point, however, is to change it’ –Karl Marx, Eleven Theses on
Foreword by Ken Williment
Foreword by John Vincent
2 Analytical Framework
3 The Traditional Library
4 The Community-Led Library
5 The Needs-Based Library
6 Conclusions and ways forward
Foreword by Ken Williment
Halifax Public Library, Nova Scotia, Canada,
This afternoon driving to work, my ten-year-old daughter asked me a very
insightful question. She asked, ‘Daddy is there more rich people or poor
people?’ I indicated it depends on the context, but globally there are many
more people living in poverty than there are rich people. Unfortunately,
reality portrayed in popular media or the lived experience of a young child
and her worldview does not accurately reflect the social conditions of the vast
majority of people’s lives. While extreme wealth is constantly celebrated, we
are quite ironically once again living in a period of time that Dickens referred
to as ‘it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.’ A few are leading the
good life, while the vast majority of people, on a daily basis, experience a tremendous amount of pressure trying to make ends meet.
For over a century, Marxist thought has permeated political and social
discourse. Proponents and opponents alike can attest to the impact that this
powerful theoretical framework can have when put into action. Meanwhile,
for almost three quarters of a century, Maslow’s theories have dominated
psychology and sociology. The ‘hierarchy of needs’ established the basic fundamental needs that must be addressed before individuals and thus communities can flourish. By placing these theoretical concepts together and applying
managerial concepts to influence cultural change in libraries, Pateman is once
again pushing boundaries in the library field.
Over the past 20 years some public libraries across Canada and the UK
have taken the position that the best way to truly understand communities
and individual needs is to step outside of the library and begin building
relationships with people in the greatest need of information services –people
in the community currently not using libraries. This has been a long and hard
struggle to have people understand that only by building trusting, sustained
and lasting relationships can library staff begin to hear about and truly understand the complex needs of communities. Only once these needs are heard
and understood can libraries begin to respond.
Social change is difficult. There are many vested interests in keeping
Structures and Systems operating in homeostasis. However, Needs-Based
and Community-Led Library service development offers library staff with
real hardened and tested tools which provide them with non prescriptive and
community-dependent approaches to implementing social change. This is
real praxis. These approaches were not developed by armchair academics and
insular ‘professional’ discourse but were instead guided by public library staff
listening to the needs of underserved community members. Community-based
library practitioners are the best way forward for library service development.
Library trends come and go over time, but the one thing that remains
constant in public libraries is people. By consciously focusing on assisting
people trying to address the social conditions influencing their lives, libraries
move from being a ‘neutral’ space to one which makes real social change and
minimises the impact of social inequality. It is our hope that the next generation does not also have to live through the best and worst of times.
Foreword by John Vincent
The Network, Nadderwater, Exeter, UK,
As I write this (May 2018), politics in the UK seem to have gotten ‘stuck’ (the
recent local elections led to both main parties being neck-and-neck, with neither able or willing to break out of their comfort zone) (Kuenssberg 2018).
One overriding factor is the result of the referendum held on 23 June
2016 ‘to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European
Union. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%,
with more than 30 million people voting’ (Hunt and Wheeler 2018). This has
led to bitter divisions in the UK and in politics, and, with the run-up to the
date when the UK has to leave (March 2019) fast approaching, there is really
very little focus on anything else –and also a sense that many politicians are
trying to appeal to a ‘middle ground’ and unwilling to challenge the narrative
that we have to have austerity. As writer Owen Jones argued:
The modern Establishment relies on a mantra of ‘There Is No
Alternative’: potential opposition is guarded against by enforcing disbelief in the idea that there is any other viable way of running society.
This unyielding position is having a dire effect on society and social justice in
the UK, especially with the generally unremitting attack on local authority
provision; this in turn is having a major impact on health, social care, education –and public service provision, such as libraries and museums.
That said, there are still many public libraries providing high levels of
targeted services, particularly focusing on, for example, physical and mental
health, loneliness, support for young children and their parents/carers, as well
as creating space for activities and events that celebrate local communities or
help them come to grips with major local events.
However, in many cases, politicians’ engagement is elsewhere, and it is
clearly time to try to find new ways of ensuring that public services develop
and thrive and, as part of that, that libraries are also maintained as public services (not privatised) and can return to delivering provision that meets the real
needs of local people and play a major part in creating social justice.
In this book, John Pateman and Joe Pateman argue that, by applying the
thinking of Karl Marx and Abraham Maslow, libraries can begin to break
out of this ‘stranglehold.’ As Yanis Varoufakis says in his new introduction to
The communist manifesto, adapted here:
Humanity may succeed in securing social arrangements that allow for
‘the free development of each’ as the ‘condition for the free development of all.’ But, then again, we may end up in the ‘common ruin’ of
nuclear war, environmental disaster or agonising discontent. In our present moment, there are no guarantees. We can turn to the manifesto for
inspiration, wisdom and energy but, in the end, what prevails is up to us.
This is the book that I have always wanted to write. During my long career
in public libraries (which began in London, UK, in 1978, and continues in
Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 2018), I have been a passionate advocate of what
was once known as ‘community librarianship.’ More recently this has been
redefined as Community-
Led or even Needs-
Based public libraries. My
underlying driving motivation is that public libraries are an incredible free,
publicly owned and shared resource, which should be truly open to all. I often
say that if the public library had not been invented, it would not get off the
ground today. I imagine the reaction of hard-nosed investors on ‘Dragon’s
Den’ if I pitched my idea of the public library to them in 2018:
‘I am going to build this thing called the public library. I am going to fill it
with books, information and other resources that meet community needs.
I am going to staff it with qualified people. And I am going to offer it all
totally free at the point of need.’
‘So how much is this all going to cost?’
‘I can give you a medium-sized public library system with four branches
and 75 staff for around $6.5 million a year.’
‘And then you’re just going to give it all away –for free?’
‘Yes I am’
‘Then you must be some kind of crazy communist!’
The idea of a free public library clearly wouldn’t fly in the present-day, uber-
capitalist and money-conscious societies that can understand the price of
everything and the value of nothing. And yet the public library, born out
of a combination of Victorian social control and philanthropy, has survived
everything that has been thrown at it over the past 150 years.
That is the point of this book –how can we take a traditional, embedded
institution, which forms part of the establishment, and transform it into a
modern, relevant, Community-
Led and Needs-
Based service? What over
40 years of practice has taught me is that there are no quick or easy solutions
to this problem; the predominant use of libraries by a homogenous middle-
class group tells us that it is a problem. Only by changing the Strategies,
Structures and Systems of public libraries can we hope to change their fundamental nature –their Organisational Culture.
I have distilled my decades of experience and combined it with some
tried and tested theoretical knowledge, borrowing from Marx, Maslow and
Management, and come up with an Analytical Framework which enables
us to not only understand the challenge –but resolve it. In doing so I have
worked with my son, a PhD student, for whom the world is a far different
place from when I was his age. This book is written for his generation in the
hope that, by changing the public library, we can ensure that it is still around
for generations to come.
I would like to thank, first and foremost, my son, Joe Pateman, for joining
me in the great adventure of writing this book. He found time from a busy
schedule –which included the first year of a PhD at Nottingham University –
to share with me his deep knowledge of Marxism and its relevance to public
I would also like to thank John Vincent, the ex-chief librarian of Lambeth,
UK, and current activist with The Network. John was my co-author of Public
libraries and social justice (2010) and has been a source of inspiration during
my public library career. John pioneered community librarianship in Lambeth
and has been a role model, mentor and good friend.
In addition, I would like to thank Ken Williment (library manager, Halifax
Public Library, Canada), my co-author of Developing community-led libraries
(2013). Ken has been a principled and passionate advocate of putting these
ideas into action. He leads by example. Ken and his beautiful family have
welcomed me into their home and made me feel like a true fellow Canadian.
Thank you also to my fellow Canadian CEOs who provided the case study
material for this book. The honest and sometimes brutal assessments of
the library services they manage provided the rich empirical evidence that
substantiates the Analytical Framework at the core of our argument.
Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Annette, and my daughter, Saskia,
for giving me the strength to do all that I do.
BBC News (2018). Local election results 2018: parties fail to make decisive gains.
[online] BBC News. Available at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43997872
[Accessed 10 May 2018].
Hunt, A and Wheeler, B (2018). Brexit: all you need to know about the UK leaving the
EU. [online] BBC News. Available at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887
[Accessed 10 May 2018].
Jones, O (2015). Foreword to the paperback edition. In: The Establishment and how
they get away with it. Harmondsworth: Penguin, pp. xi–xxiv, xiii.
Kuenssberg, L (2018). Local election results 2018: parties must break out of comfort
zones. [online] BBC News. Available at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44001529
[Accessed 10 May 2018].
Varoufakis, Y (2018). Yanis Varoufakis: Marx predicted our present crisis –and
points the way out. [online] The Guardian. Available at: www.theguardian.com/
news/2018/apr/20/yanis-varoufakis-marx-crisis-communist-manifesto [Accessed 10
In this book we argue that changes to library Strategies and Systems can
lead to changes in library Structures which, in turn, can shape and determine Organisational Culture (Pateman and Pateman 2017). This approach
is derived from a specific interpretation of historical materialism known as
‘technological /economic determinism.’ We describe the key features of an
Analytical Framework which can be used to better understand, support and
enable cultural change in public libraries. This Framework has been informed
by an extensive literature search and analysis of over 150 years of public library
history. The Framework has been developed on three levels and is based on
the work of Karl Marx, Abraham Maslow and Management theories.
History of the public library since 1850
The Analytical Framework has been developed by taking an overview and
analysis of the history of the public library from its inception in the mid 19th
century to the present day. This development can be broken down into several distinctive stages. In each stage, we can see how the public library was a
product of the economic Base and the political, social, cultural and ideological
Superstructure which that Base shaped and determined. There were three main
stages of development: the Traditional Library 1850–1970; the Community-
Led Library 1970–2000; and the Needs-Based Library 2000–present.
The Traditional Library 1850–1970
The Traditional Library emerged from the Mechanics Institutes in the mid
19th century, reached its peak in the post war welfare state and went into
decline in the 1970s. While this model remains the dominant paradigm, there
have been steep and ongoing decreases in public library membership, personal
visits and physical circulation since 1970.
1850–1930: While the overt argument for public libraries was framed
in terms of social reform and the need to educate the ‘deserving poor,’ the
covert reason was to create state institutions of social control to manage
the idle time and reading habits of the working classes (Corrigan and
Gillespie 1978). This was a response to the economic, political and social
changes sweeping across Europe in the mid 19th century and manifested
by revolutions in central Europe and the Chartist movement in the UK
(Black 2000a). The state apparatus of capitalism was used to manage the
emerging demands from organised labour and to take some of the pressure
out of the system to prevent this from boiling over into revolution (Black
2000b). At the same time the public library became a bulwark of middle-
class values (Black 2003). These forces shaped and determined the defining
characteristics of the Traditional Library.
1930–1950: Following another period of capitalist upheaval and crisis,
as evidenced by the Great Depression, which swept around the world in the
late 1920s and early 1930s, the public library reinvented its role as an ameliorator of social conditions (Kenyon 1927). The public library acted, again,
as a safety valve to mitigate some of the social and political pressure which
was building up in the capitalist system as a consequence of the underlying
economic conditions (McColvin 1942). The role of the public library was to
ensure that the surplus army of unemployed did not pose a threat to the state
institutions of power (Black 2000a). This further entrenched the defining
characteristics of the Traditional Library.
1970: According to Harold MacMillan, during the post–
World War period, the people ‘never had it so good,’ and living standards
among the working classes steadily increased (Roberts 1959). There was
more or less full employment and reasonable standards of living, which gave
workers the ability to enjoy leisure pursuits (Gerard 1962). During this period
the public library became an almost exclusive middle-class institution with a
focus on reading for pleasure (Luckham 1971). Circulation was dominated by
hardback adult fiction, and the leisure function came to dominate over the
educational role of the public library (Black 2003). The Traditional Library
became focused on the higher needs of the middle class rather than the basic
needs of the working class.
The Community-Led Library 1970–2000
Community librarianship emerged from the Traditional Library in the mid
1970s, became more mainstream with the setting up of the Community
Services Group of the Library Association in 1982 and started to decline with
the onset of cuts to local government expenditure in 1987–1988.
1970–1980: The social role of the public library in supporting the aspirations
and needs of the working class emerged from the Traditional Library in the
1970s through the community librarianship movement (Usherwood 1981).
Public libraries in inner London neighbourhoods, such as Lambeth and
Hackney, understood the role which public libraries could play in reaching
out to poor and immigrant communities and supporting the struggles of
working-class, black and gay communities of interest (Black and Muddiman
1997). The public library became both an ally and a resource in these struggles
for civil rights and equality of outcomes (Black 2003). The seeds of the later
Community-Led Library were sewn at this time.
1980–2000: This trend ended abruptly when Margaret Thatcher drastically
curtailed the power and resources of local government in her monetarist crusade to reduce the size and influence of the public sector (Black 2000b). The
ensuing decade saw attempts to privatise and commercialise public library
services (Black 2003). In the face of this financial and ideological onslaught,
the public library retreated back to its Traditional roots (Pateman and
But the community librarianship movement had established the groundwork for the later development of the Community-Led Library, when the
conditions were right.
The Needs-Based Library 2000–present
The Community-Led Library emerged from the Open to all? (Muddiman et al
2000) research carried out in the UK, reached its peak during the Working
Together Project in Canada (Working Together 2008) and started to develop
into the Needs-Based Library (Pateman 2003c).
2000–2010: When New Labour under the leadership of Tony Blair entered
government, the Old Labour language of class and poverty was replaced by
a new lexicon of social exclusion and community cohesion (Pateman and
Vincent 2007). This created the ideological space to reassert the social role of
public libraries; after the publication of the seminal Open to all? research in
the UK, and its implementation via the Working Together Project in Canada,
a new Community-Led Library movement emerged (Pateman and Vincent
2010). This gained traction in Canada, where large systems, such as Edmonton
Public Library, fully embraced the model. In the UK, the Traditional Library
continued to predominate.
2010–present: When the Tories returned to power in the UK in 2010, they
began to decimate public libraries in the name of austerity. In reality this
was a convenient cover for a neo-liberal ideological agenda which continued,
accelerated and deepened the work of Margaret Thatcher. The aim was to
reduce the size of the public sector (Pateman and Vincent 2012). Public
libraries (particularly those which had failed to transform from Traditional
to Community-Led) were ‘low hanging fruit.’ Over 1,000 libraries have been
closed, and 10,000 library workers have been laid off (Pateman and Vincent
2017). In Canada, by contrast, the Community-Led Library movement has
grown during the economic expansionist period of the Liberal government
led by Justin Trudeau (Pateman and Williment 2013). There is also some evidence of the Needs-Based Library starting to emerge.
It is clear from our literature review of these historical developments that
the public library has gone through a series of evolutionary stages. This
has enabled us to construct three consecutive, but overlapping, models of
library provision, which we have defined as Traditional, Community-Led and
Needs-Based. Each of these models contains the seeds required for the next
stage of development.
‘However often today’s literary scholars repeat the mantra of race, class and
gender, they clearly have a problem with class’ (Rose 2002). A search by subject
of the online MLA International Bibliography for 1991–2000 produces 13,820
hits for ‘women’; 4,539 for ‘gender’; 1,826 for ‘race’; 710 for ‘post-colonial’;
and only 136 for ‘working class.’ The MLA Directory of Periodicals lists no
academic or critical journals anywhere in the world devoted to proletarian literature, and the subject is very rarely taught in universities. In social history,
for example, class was a dominant issue between 1963 (when E.P. Thompson’s
seminal The making of the English working class was published) and 1983
(when Gareth Stedman Jones authored his post structuralist Languages of
class). Post structuralist historians such as Joyce (1991) have argued that
class has had less of a purchase on workers’ identities than earlier Marxist
historians suggested. Other commentators, including Edgell (1993), have
asserted that the arrival of post modern society has meant the ‘end of class.’
The post 2008 crisis of capitalism led a renewed interest in Marxism and its
core categories of analysis, such as class and exploitation. There have been a
number of UK studies into aspects of working-class culture, including Baars,
Mulcahy and Bernardes (2016), Beider (2015), Crawford (2014), Evans and
Tilley (2015), Griffith and Glennie (2014), Hanley (2008, 2016), Jones (2011,
2014), McKenzie (2015), Reay (2017) and Rogaly and Taylor (2009). There
have also been some North American studies, including Isenberg (2016),
Vance (2016) and Williams (2017). Many of these studies have demonstrated
how social class continues to be the single most significant determinant of life
The impact of class on public libraries has received very little professional
or academic attention.
There is one ‘skeleton of control and conservatism’ in the public library
cupboard which has consistently been kept hidden: the issue of social
class…Class is something which, for 150 years, the public library in Britain
has largely failed to come to terms with. Some have valiantly attempted
to discuss and problematize class in the library context. However, the tendency has generally been to sweep the issue under the carpet.
(Black 2000b: 5)
Class was not on the professional agenda.
It is not talked about at conferences. It is not written about in journals.
It is not taught in library schools. It is regarded as an old fashioned and
irrelevant issue. When the issue is raised it is ridiculed, trivialized and
marginalized. Library people do not feel comfortable talking about class.
(Pateman 2002: 13)
Books on class and librarianship have been few and far between. ‘This
is surprising because imprints have been printing volumes on other progressive topics like gender in librarianship, race in librarianship, and intellectual
freedom, among others’ (Estep and Enright 2016).
This is not to say that class has not attracted the serious attention of some,
including: Baggs (2001, 2004), Black (2003), Corrigan and Gillespie (1978),
Devereux (1972), Hammond (2002), Jordan (1972), Lahav (1989), Muddiman
(1998), Murison (1955), Noyce (1974), Pateman (2004, 2005b, 2005d, 2011),
Peatling (2002) and Wellard (1937b). More recently, voices and ideas that have
long been confined to the critical margins have been given buoyancy as forms
of critique have gained traction during the current crisis of capitalism. There
has been a fresh look at the interaction of information, labour, capital, class
and librarianship. Most of these authors rely explicitly or implicitly on Marx.
For example, Bales (2016), borrowing from the French Marxist philosopher
Louis Althusser, believes that the modern library is a cultural and educational
Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) which is designed to uphold and defend
the ideological status quo. The library is a state-maintained, superstructural
institution designed not to coerce but to persuade the public of the historical
bloc’s legitimacy by reinforcing the dominant culture. The aim is to exclude
those who feel ‘out of place’ when using the library or who think they ‘don’t
belong’ there. They are treated as ‘the other’ by library staff and included
patrons. Some people are excluded because they refuse to follow the necessary rituals of the library, or they self-exclude themselves because of library
Carruthers (2016) considers the ideology of the early public library
movement. Workers and women were encouraged to accept their social
and economic position and struggle on an individual level to become the
exception to the rule of ‘inequality of environment.’ Melvil Dewey’s speech
‘Librarianship as a profession for college-bred women’ to the Association
of College Alumnae in 1886 suggested that women were ideally suited to
library work because their ‘natural’ skills and abilities could be used to
soften and temper disharmony. Dewey compared librarianship to motherhood, with the aim of educating and raising good docile workers who
understood their place in society. Individual self-improvement was posited
as the reasonable alternative to addressing and altering structural inequalities, and public libraries were the solution to the problem of professional
women’s social mobility. Capitalist ideology has deeply influenced public
librarianship from its beginning, which explains the continuing connection
between private interests and public librarianship. Now as in the past,
public libraries’ value is derived from their ability to prepare a workforce
for existing economic conditions.
Bird and Cannon (2016) suggest that the information economy has
replaced the steam engine as the driver of capitalist enterprise. Information
is a commodity, and the class struggle is located within the hierarchies and
organisational culture of the public library, which is an agency of social control. Professionalism is a divisive ideology which creates tension and conflict between librarians and their fellow workers. De-professionalisation will
create a strong, unified workforce. This in turn will create a more equitable
and egalitarian Organisational Culture. Librarians serve their own profession and its elevated standing instead of the communities in which they work.
professionalisation will create greater class consciousness and enable
library workers to form alliances with their local communities and the labour
movement, to reach beyond the narrow library sector and build solidarity by
linking with wider struggles.
Wright (2016) places information at the centre of the global, capitalist
economy and shows how this affects workers. The function of information
is the ongoing reproduction of what Marx once called ‘the present state of
things.’ Information has come to play an increasingly central role within contemporary capitalist social relations. The purpose of information is to secure
the expanded reproduction of capital. Information and information technology are vital to capital. The hierarchical division of labour profoundly
atomises the working class in a political sense; workers are fragmented into
myriads of individual entities, frequently indifferent to any common interests
they might share. The emergence of a white-collar proletariat and a cybertariat
reveals the parasitic nature of capitalist social relations. Regardless of these
developments, capital by its nature continues to rely upon labour time as both
its measure and what Marx called the ‘life giving elixir that animates it.’ There
is still much to learn from Marx’s value analysis, which locates the potential
for a new way of living precisely within the social antagonisms that emerge in
response to capital’s attempts to commodify human capacities.
McEachreon and Barriage (2016) focus on low-income library users, who
face challenges in using public libraries such as restrictive fine policies, ‘library
anxiety’ and gadget-driven programmes aimed at middle-class affluent users.
Intentional strategies and systematic action by public libraries to develop policies, programmes and spaces for the poor can have a broad transformative
effect on poverty and the socially excluded. Public libraries cater to the middle
and upper classes, directly or indirectly ignoring the unique needs of lower-
income citizens. Public libraries can often be intimidating and unwelcoming
to people not acculturated into ‘acceptable’ library behaviours. The systems
used by public libraries are another barrier for people already struggling to
interact with a bureaucratic institution. ‘Library anxiety’ refers to the discomfort people often feel when interacting with the public library. The people who
work in libraries may seem unapproachable because they think and act differently than patrons with low incomes or because of the unwelcoming attitudes
staff may exhibit, consciously or unconsciously. Library programmes and
services are targeted at the middle class, while poor people are viewed as a
problem. Libraries should stop claiming that they can serve everyone and
start focusing on serving those with the greatest needs.
Pateman noted that
It has often been said that capitalism contains the seeds of its own
destruction. One of these seeds was planted in the mid-nineteenth century when capitalists like Carnegie funded public libraries as an ally of
the exploiting class. The opportunity now exists to transform public
libraries into a weapon for the working class, an agency of social change,
which gives voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. By ditching
professionalism, neutrality and cultural elitism, public libraries can focus
on those with the greatest needs, become pro-poor, work to level the economic and social playing fields of life, and drive nails into the coffin of
Karl Marx’s theory of historical materialism was used to develop the first level
of the Analytical Framework, as illustrated in Table 1.1.
Marx developed the theory of historical materialism to demonstrate how
the economic Base of society determines its political and ideological
Superstructure. Librarians can use the theoretical concepts of historical
materialism to identify the Traditional, Community-Led and Needs-Based
Given that our focus is managing cultural change, we are particularly
interested in how the public library Base (which we define as the Strategy,
Structures and Systems) shapes and determines the Superstructure (ideology
and Culture). We also argue that only a transformation in the public library
Base can bring about cultural change.
While Marx believes that the Base determines the ideological and cultural
Superstructure, he also believes that changes in the Superstructure tend to lag
behind changes in the Base. This means that people will cling on to their old
and outdated beliefs even after there has been a material transformation of
society. These old ideas can have the effect of slowing down the development
of the new society.
The Chinese Marxist Mao Tse-tung developed Marx’s theory by arguing
that the economic and political revolution must be followed by a Cultural
Revolution that will replace the beliefs of the old society with those of the new
Table 1.1 Analytical Framework – Marx
Forces and relations of production
Active patrons and Active patrons,
non patrons and
A rigid hierarchy
A flexible matrix
Services are mostly Services are mostly
is based on
based on logic
and outputs to
Ideology and culture
staff focus, open
A fluid holacracy
with staff members
Services are co-
by staff and
Impact evaluation is
based on theory
of change which
links impact to
outcomes such as
Source: Marx, K and Engels, F (1975–2004). Collected works. London: Lawrence & Wishart.